Imposter syndrome refers to the persistent feeling of inadequacy, self-doubt and a fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite evidence of competence and success.
We know that to reach our full career potential we need to be professionally resilient, but when we are experiencing imposter syndrome, it chips away at our ability to persevere and thrive in the face of challenges.
I recently had a big dose of imposter syndrome, which lead me to dive deeper into this topic. I was booked to deliver a keynote presentation in front of my biggest audience ever. It was in Nashville, Tennessee in front of 6,000 of the world’s leading life insurance and financial services professionals.
I had done a gazillion hours of preparation, that involved coaches and colleagues helping me improve my content and slides, my stage presence and my outfit! I had done everything I could do in order to deliver the keynote presentation of my life. I felt confident, excited and naturally, a little nervous. But mostly I felt ready. This event was the kind of event I had dreamed of and set intentions about for years. I knew I would be able to truly empower and inspire the audience to persevere during tough times so they could continue to be the talented, kind and clever humans who create financial security for hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.
Then I saw the program. I was following Dylan Alcott! I have been a tennis fan since I was a little girl and Dylan was at superhero status to me. I started to freak out.
How on earth could I possibly follow someone I considered a superhero? How could follow an Australian of the Year, a Gold medallist across two sports, a winner of multiple Grand Slam titles, an impactful keynote speaker and just a down-to-earth fabulous, funny guy? Yikes!
Thank goodness I had a talented and wise colleague who was able to help me remember why I was going to be OK. In fact on the day, I was more than OK because I got a standing ovation. Wooohooooo. Plus, I got to hang out with Dylan in the green room, laugh with him, share stories and have him tell me I looked like a crazy lady while I was practicing backstage!
The entire experience though was a wake-up call to how quickly we can go from feeling confident to crippled with imposter syndrome and how this can impact our ability to perform at our best.
Here are four ways that imposter syndrome impacts us at work:
Self-doubt and fear of failure
Imposter syndrome often leads us to doubt our abilities and believe that our accomplishments are merely due to luck or external factors. This self-doubt can erode our confidence and make us more susceptible to fear of failure. As a result, we may become hesitant to take on new challenges or seize opportunities for growth, limiting our ability to develop resilience in the face of adversity.
Perfectionism and avoidance
Imposter syndrome can drive us to pursue perfection in our work as a means to avoid being exposed as a fraud. This perfectionistic mindset can be counterproductive and hinder our professional resilience. When setbacks occur or when we encounter difficulties, perfectionists with imposter syndrome may become overly critical of ourselves and struggle to persevere. We may avoid taking risks or pursuing new opportunities out of fear of making mistakes or not meeting our own high standards.
Difficulty seeking support
People experiencing imposter syndrome often hesitate to seek support or ask for help because they fear that doing so would expose their perceived incompetence. This reluctance to seek assistance can isolate people and deprive them of valuable resources and guidance that could help navigate challenges and build resilience. People with imposter syndrome may struggle silently, without benefiting from the insights and support of colleagues, mentors, or coaches.
Burnout and excessive self-pressure
Imposter syndrome can contribute to high levels of stress and burnout. The constant pressure to prove oneself, combined with the fear of being discovered as a fraud, can lead to relentless self-imposed pressure. This pressure can exhaust us emotionally and mentally, leaving us more vulnerable to burnout. Over time, burnout undermines professional resilience by depleting motivation, reducing the ability to cope with setbacks and impairing our overall wellbeing.
Addressing imposter syndrome and its impact on professional resilience requires a combination of self-reflection, cognitive reframing, seeking support from trusted individuals and developing a growth-oriented mindset.
Break free from the clutches of imposter syndrome and unleash your professional resilience by implementing these three tips:
1. Take action today
Reflect on your own experiences with imposter syndrome and research strategies to combat it. By embracing a growth mindset you will challenge the self-doubts that are holding you back.
2. Seek support
Don't go it alone! Reach out to your trusted colleagues, mentors, or coaches who can provide guidance and encouragement on your journey to professional resilience.
3. Share your story
By opening up about your experiences with imposter syndrome, you empower others to do the same. When I shared my own imposter syndrome story, it allowed others to open up and have similar conversations with me. Together we can create a supportive community where we uplift and inspire each other to reach our full potential.
Remember, you are not alone in this struggle. We all have the power to overcome imposter syndrome. Let's build resilience, shatter self-doubt, and embrace our true capabilities.